Elon Musk is promoting his plan to use nuclear bombs to melt the polar ice of Mars. A thermonuclear attack on Mars would use nuclear bombs vaporize the elements trapped in the ice and create a greenhouse effect.
Charlotte Philp calculated that the world’s current 14,000 nuclear weapons would only be enough to vaporize 1-2% of the Mars carbon dioxide ice.
Russia has 6500-8500 nuclear weapons and most of their weapons are larger than the US nuclear weapons. Russia missiles have historically been less accurate so Russia made up for it by using bigger nuclear weapons. Most of the Russia nuclear weapons are in the 400-600 kiloton range.
Elon Musk would want to partner with Russia for using nuclear bombs on Mars. Russia could make use nuclear bombs for a massive project Orion spaceship to take a massive cargo to Mars.
It would likely take 150,000 megatons to 200,000 megatons of nuclear devices to heat up Mars. Making a nuclear fission-fusion bomb factory on Mars would be more efficient than bringing 1 million to 2 million nuclear weapons. Mars would need to be surveyed to find the best Uranium deposits.
It would also be more efficient to build 100 megaton devices like the planned scale of the Tsar bomb rather than strategic nuclear devices in the 250 kiloton to 700 kiloton range.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 16, 2019
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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78 thoughts on “Musk Promotes Nuke Mars T-Shirts”
On this I completely agree.
Yeah, complex planetary scientist’s contracts.
We can just as easily “know” about other life forms while settling the planet. It’s ridiculous to act like we can’t.
OK, cool. I don’t think I said we shouldn’t go, just that we maybe needed magnetic shielding. I’m 100% in the “GO!” crowd.
Layers like an onion–fission to initiate a fusion amplification of fast neutrons and produce alphas, the neutrons then drive the U238 reflector as a third stage.
Tsar Bomba figuratively had one hand tied behind it’s back, as the final stage wasn’t fertile material. Haven’t kept up, but decades ago a 400 Mt was considered in realm of feasible, just of no practical use.
The Valles Marineris probably was an inspiration to Niven with the ‘Known Space’ novels. The planet ‘Canyon’ literally has all it’s atmosphere trapped in a deep trench carved by weapons fire.
Knowing if life has evolved on another planet
and its characteristics is VITAL for the survi
val of OUR species, for complex strategic reasons.
To be in the club? You just need to accept some
scorching now and then, we like to insult each other. Otherwise you would be acting faggoty,
which is not appreciated.
Relax, all the relevant points were made. No need to continue this discussion/argument.
Our muscles work against a full bar all the time, as long as it’s that on both sides. So I guess the 1.5 mbar is a differential limit, not an absolute number. In which case, a compression vest seems like the way to go if you want to do this for any extended period of time.
(P.S.: Just realized another reason the 60mb sentence didn’t parse: because it was “mb”, not “mbar”. Both are correct, but I’m not used to the former.)
As it happens I spent a number of years working on medical products that feed air into people’s lungs under pressure.
You can breathe in and out against a pressure that’s maybe 1500 Pa (1.5 mbar), though it’s getting pretty uncomfortable at that point.
It is also not that difficult to have a system that predicts breaths and times the pressure to be high when you breathe in, lower when you breathe out. But this is much easier when a patient is resting in bed compared to doing physical exertion and being active.
And having the heart rate rise (during exertion) produces a lot of false positives to the system (the contraction of the heart causes the lung volume to change as if you are about to start breathing.)
Actually, I mentioned the Armstrong limit in the context of accidental brutal exposure to Mars atmosphere. With 7 mb of pressure, you die immediately, but with 60-70 mb (mostly CO2), a person could probably survive, breathing pure O2, at least for the minutes required to reach a pressurized shelter. This is also a parameter rarely discussed with hyperloop concepts…
Till we findout how to change the gravity of a planet.
Essentially those ideas are doomed to failure on the long turn.
You could probably let your lung a little above ambient pressure, because your rib cage and muscles and connective tissue can provide some compressive force. You could extend that a little with a compression vest without resorting to a full pressure suit.
At the limit, breathing would be a little weird. You breathe in by squeezing your breathing muscles, like you’d usually breathe out. This tells the breather controller to open the input valve, allowing gas into your lungs under enough pressure to expand them against the applied force (via a pressure regulator). Then, after either a time limit or when your muscle activation begins to drop (or when the air in your lungs reaches a certain level of CO2), the controller would open the release valve, allowing your lungs content to vent outside.
As a safety feature, you can operate the two valves manually. But in general, it’d be safer to operate at a passive pressure level (requiring minimum muscle activation to hold the air in).
You don’t need to instantly vaporize the ice. The nukes would be used as large ‘earth’ movers to upend the dark regolith underneath, thus causing an albedo shift and the subsequent melting of the caps. 4, 1 megaton nukes are all that should be necessary. Timed for right before the summer season for each pole, for two successive summer Sean’s on each pole. This would take roughly 4 years and one nuke per year.
My interpretation was:
Also, I guess we could make the whole atmosphere O2, which would also work.
As it is, I think running at the limit of what we can breathe is asking for trouble. One lung infection and you can’t get enough oxygen in your blood. One breakdown that means you have to walk 5 km uphill. One …
The nuclear winter theory is based on the idea of massive amounts of particulates, caused by (in the original, Earth based, scenario)
I was explaining people’s reactions and you are trying to interpret me as making a moral claim.
That’s not my intent.
At least I can write in non-broken English (most of the time). Better than many on here. Want me to go around making fun of that?
I don’t feel that I was armed with ignorance. Being wrong (based on the latest guess) is not exactly the same as ignorance…This site has promoted the magnetic field at the lagrange point. There must be a use for that?!… I once had an engineer explain in detail to me how the atmosphere would be gone within a few years…I have read Nextbigfuture (and phys.org) daily for many years. I had a college level Astronomy class; Calculus I and II. I read popular science stories daily…Still, I admitted that I was not an expert. What more should I do to be in the club?
Regulars = Ownership? – squatter’s rights?
I don’t know what Zippy thought, but when I read it, I interpreted your response as a sarcastic “I like it”, which *does* make those two phrases the same. Just another example of the difficulties of interpreting words with no accompanying clues of tone, facial expression, etc.
Did someone ask Marvin the Martian?
You may be right. A large “portion of vacuum” should be somewhat equivalent to a large portion of inert gas (except for the thermal mass, as you point out).
I missed the pressure part of that comment. Or more precisely, the whole “6.9% is just above the Armstrong limit (60mb)” sentence didn’t parse, because it was too far from the context.
Reading that comment again in context, I don’t see where that “100% O2” is even coming from. If we’re talking about the ambient atmosphere, there’ll be no 100% O2. It would be mostly CO2. If we’re talking about breathing apparatus, then the 60mb doesn’t apply, and then why have it 100% O2 when you can easily mix in some CO2 from the ambient atmosphere (or nitrogen from the breathing tank)?
edit: I suppose a low-pressure pure oxygen breathing apparatus would be lighter and simpler than mixing in other gases?
I know, Martian atmosphere is super thin so this may not really be an issue, but I wonder at which point a nuclear winter will start messing with the desired greenhouse effect. I suppose a thickening atmosphere increasingly supports particulates. I think sulphur oxides also block incoming sunlight but don’t know how much of a problem that would be when nuking Mars.
Is it the % of Oxygen that’s the danger, or is it the partial pressure of oxygen that’s the danger?
Because 60 mb of oxygen is lower than on Earth. My understanding of chemical kinetics is that this is what governs most of the chemical reactivity.
One could argue that there are situations where a low pressure pure O2 isn’t as safe. A volume of 60mb “air” will heat up to a flash point faster than a higher density of 80% N2.
And I’m prepared to have someone who actually has studies to tell me that the low pressure oxygen will, on net, be more dangerous. But I’d need actual references.
Actually dropping big rocks ( i.e. moving millions of tonnes of asteroids and comets around and aiming them to fairly precise intercepts) is great, but it’s not something that we actually have off the shelf at this point.
Indeed we’d probably need to nuke them to move them around.
Just working out how to do that is a major project in and of itself.
While sending a nuke sized package to Mars on a rocket and getting it to land in a fairly precise spot is something that is just about off-the-shelf these days. It still goes wrong occasionally (feet not metres… oops) but it’s something you just pay your money and it happens.
Asteroid diversion is a whole new tech. It’s hardly a simpler, easier substitute.
Of course, long term we really, really, REALLY want to get that asteroid capture tech going. But in 2019 moving asteroids around is not an option.
Surely it’s no mystery as to why an American would prefer it if all the Russian nukes got used up?
Did you interpret me saying
Because those two phases are not the same.
As usual, if you come into a forum, say something that seems fairly reasonable, and people react badly, it is quite probable that you’ve dropped into a conversation that’s been going for a while.
So the regulars here have hashed out this whole solar wind stripping the atmosphere thing over the past several months, and then to have someone suddenly dredge up the whole thing again is annoying.
It gets argued about again. It settles down again. Then someone else comes in and brings it up. Again.
After a while the responses become a bit… impolite.
Also, nbfdmd is usually impolite, and so you got the response you did.
Wouldn’t bet on 100% O2. That’s an explosion/fire hazard with (almost?) every combustible substance – humans included.
There’s a big difference between sublimating CO2 ice trapped in/under the rock, and decomposing the rock itself (while assuming it’s a carbonate rock). The latter requires high temperatures. The former, not so much.
As described by Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars (actually the bombs were detonated in underground ice in the northern hemisphere, while nitrates were liberated by an Aerial orbiting fresnel lens)
The people were not evacuated but vaporized, cremated and crushed. Thousands of survivors died from acute irradiation or from the fallouts. Ref. 《 The effect of nuclear weapons, 1950, A.E.C.》
6.9% is just above the Armstrong limit (60mb). This is important as it would protect (more or less) humans from death by explosive decompression and allow people to stay alive breathing 100 % O2.
Well, see, here’s the thing…If there is not life there, or if there is only microbial life there, there can be no catastrophe. This is the lie of a few people who want to keep Mars to themselves, for research purposes. A desert wasteland can only be improved. My point was that we can kill trillions of microbes on earth, and no one bats an eye. We can have the possibility of “contaminating” Mars, and a few scientists go nuts…I get it, but the need to study possible new life forms is not the be all, end all for anyone except a relative few scientists. Most of us have bigger fish to fry…Like survival of the only lifeforms we know of in the universe. Now, that is a catastrophe that needs avoiding! If we avoid that catastrophe, then there will be plenty of places to search for other life forms out there. Many estimates are that there are at least billions of possible habitable planets within our own galaxy, and there are other planets and moons within our own solar system to explore. Quit acting like survival of our species is unimportant, while the search for other life forms is paramount. You know, if and when our species dies out, all the research in the world will die out with it. So, how can you believe that the research is more important than the species? It makes no sense…It also makes no sense to put the survival of microbes on Mars more important than all the life that already exists on earth, especially the multi-cellular organisms with brains.
Historically we did solve a couple of problems with nuclear weapons.
I like it: Possible planetary catastrophe equivalent to using mouthwash once.
An O’Niel Cylinder turned into an Orion is EXACTLY what I was thinking. Nuke it ,indeed
Thank you for that analysis!
Nuke O’Neil cylinders? Sure after they’re built, that’s why Mars is a better target
I have read up some more since my first statement. Although I have seen no great summation that would tell me, for instance, that a 1.0 earth atmosphere would lose X percent in 1 million years, I have seen enough to believe that current estimates are that it would take more than a few lifetimes to make a significant difference… I’m with you. I believe some academic types would love to keep Mars hoarded all to themselves, to study for a few thousand years…Not me. I say it is time to let life flourish. That is much better than maintaining desolation, for the sake of a few scientists pleasure and livelihood. They have had their chance. Of course, they can study it even more, once we take up residence.
Nah. Scoring high on a test is a very narrow understanding of intelligence. I have met old farmers and car mechanics, who had little formal schooling, who could run circles around so-called (IQ) geniuses…Keep on believing though, Mr. Hitler.
Sit around on our hands, and let a bunch of God-wanna-be’s insinuate that we cannot possibly think of raping this vast wonderland of theirs (otherwise known as a vast desolate desert). That makes a lot more sense…Oh my Gosh! We might kill a wonderous microbe in the process. Oh no’s! Meanwhile, we kill what, a few million microbes every time we use mouthwash here on Earth?…It’s OK. No one live there. As a matter of fact, using enough nukes on Mars might relieve us of a few here. A win/win.
OK… Anybody else think he’s off his rocker?
Building factories is not nuking Mars, much easier is to remove the CO2 from the air and pump it somewhere, this is how economical it is. The man has bombastic Trumpian hallucinations! Go and buy his memorabilia T-shirts if you want to!
It requires high temperatures – like 200-400C to liberate CO2 from rocks so simple atmospheric temperature evaporation won’t be enough. That is doable though …..by burying very big thermonuclear bombs and setting them off in carbonate rich rock beds.
Read the actual study.
It claims 1 bar is needed; only 0.2 is needed. It talks about greenhouse potential and ignores creating a perfluorocarbon factory.
“Not even wrong” – Wolfgang Pauli
I am not a fan of terraforming. I see it as trainer wheels, or even worse…an irrational attachment to the previous. Like Nordic roofs in the desert…because someone from Norway moved there. Better to adapt the technology to the environment.
Building caves underground and in rocks makes much more sense. Mutilating Mars, is going to make Mars much less interesting for scientists, and tourists. They might as well be visiting the Gobi desert.
Just drop a big rock on the poles.
Lots of nukes = lots of fallout.
Until recently, it was taxpayer money only. We are saved by Musk’s rockets, which can do “everything”, but were dedicated to Mars First with SLS. That WAS the complaint. Thanks to Musk, the 40 years wasted not doing lunar ISRU development are over!
“But one thing’s certain: Mars‘ problems can’t be solved with nuclear weapons any more than Earth‘s.”
Somebody has talent for those articles catchphrases nice
The planet is already unhabitable last time i checked. I mean Earth nuked to oblivion still looks like a much more friendly place than Mars so yeah.
Nuke first, ask questions later. I like it ! If only more ppl adhered to this philosophy the world… Oh shit
Why Russia? Musk works with US government – he should partner with DOE and USSTRATCOM on the lofty goal of burning all their nukes on Mars. And Russia, China and.. oh, well.. Israel would send MEGATONS of moral support for that epic undertaking. 🙂
Who needs them nukes anyway? Oh, wait..
It’s a single word dig on a super niche internet comments section. Not exactly bullying.
Let’s do everything. Settle everything in the system. Every void, Lagrange point, every nook and cranny on every planet, satellite, asteroid, etc. Exploited for all they’re worth respectively.
I can criticize anyone I want. Get help. It is seriously deranged to think that a comment on an internet board is bullying a multi-billionaire. You seem to believe that because someone has that “kind of money” they shouldn’t be criticized. That is pathetic obsequious nonsense.
Musk isn’t above criticism, and criticism isn’t bullying
I still like the idea of O’Neil cylinders more
Do I hear a loud laugh from O’Neill’s grave?
If you duck duck “Solar wind mars atmosphere” you will get sites like
Which reveals the current stripping rate of about 100 g/s.
So that’s about the speed at which a spirited person drinks a beer, not something that strips a planet at a noticeable rate.
100 g/s = 3000 tonnes per year.
The surface area of Mars is 144 trillion sq. m, so that is a loss of 200 micrograms of atmosphere per sq. m per year.
At Martian gravity it takes about 26 tonnes of gas per sq. m to get one Earth Atmosphere of pressure, so to reduce atmospheric pressure by 1% would take 1.3 billion years.
Stripping was apparently a lot faster when the sun was younger and more energetic, and maybe the rate goes up when there is more atmosphere to strip… but right now the stripping rate is something that is completely meaningless when it comes to terraforming the planet.
Hmm, your link contains this other link: https://mashable.com/2018/07/25/mars-underground-water-life/
that says there may be a large if very shallow, lake under the surface, possibly with life. Before terraforming Mars, we should find out.
We will have at least a million years to protect the atmosphere. So can warm Mars first, terraform it and move in then think of the best ways to protect it.
Source (millions of years)?
Obviously, this would mostly negate my argument, if true.
Now, about “you people”: I looked behind me, and no one was there. Who are these friends of mine you speak of? Seriously, I have heard and read of this “fact” more than once, from different sources. I recall something more like decades or hundred of years, if I remember correctly.
Shut up and take my money!
You can’t really begrudge a man for working a side hustle of novelty gift sales in this economy. He did pretty good so far with the pseudo-flamethrowers and those dirt bricks…
Really big fusion bombs are pretty clean, Tsar Bomba was remarkably so. These would also be airbursts. which generate negligible fallout. Also: the actinides are dangerous precisely because of their short half-lives, meaning that what residue resulted would probably not last long.
Finally, Mars is already ‘radioactive’ in that it’s being sprayed with the very cosmic rays an atmosphere would mitigate, so it’s a net improvement. Even if you were right, the thickening of the CO2 atmosphere would be a major benefit to the inhabitants.
Musk Promotes His Plan to Nuke Mars With T-Shirts
This seems like a dubious plan. The T-Shirts would have to be made out of lithium deuteride and T-shirt geometry is non-conducive to compression.
Elon and other smart people figured a runaway greenhouse effect might do the trick, hence the bombs to release CO2 from the polar caps into the Martian atmosphere.
Alas, even if we could release all of the carbon dioxide from the caps, atmospheric pressure would only double to about 1.2 percent that of Earth. If, by some miracle, we could find a way to also release all of the CO2 trapped in the rocks and soil, that would only bring us up to 6.9 percent, according to the study.
And who are you to criticize and bully the greatest entrepreneur the Earth has ever seen? You do realize with the kind of money and following Mr. Elon Musk has, it is useless to hide behind cowardly anonymity?
The planet would be uninhabitable for centuries due to radioactivity.
Tsar bomba was 50 megatons, 100x a “regular” warhead yield. So the critique that the worlds current arsenal is 2% of needed is meaningless. A 50 megaton bomb has no real purpose as a weapon but as a heat source is an entirely different question. It is easy to scale thermonuclear bombs way way up.
You are vastly overstating the radioactive fallout of large scale thermonuclear bombs. You only need one small fission trigger for a VERY large tsar bomba. How long did it take Nagasaki to be habitable? And that’s a direct hit, not at the poles.
EDIT: and the answer about Nagasaki and Hiroshima is they were never evacuated
Hydrogen nuclear bomb are 1000 times more powerful as ordinary nuclear bomb they must use it
Yeah this gets repeated every single discussion. “b-b-but it will be no good, because I have read something about it and it will be blown away to space, trust me!”
…He keeps saying that after it has been shown that there is not enough ice in the poles to create nearly enough atmosphere… which shows that he is a good engineer but a die hard ideologue idiot in many other ways. … And those who blindly idolize him continue to calculate how many nuclear bombs are needed to melt the poles when it should be clear that no one will be able to live on Mars for many hundred years after that due to radiation…
Not that I am the most knowledgeable scientist in the world, but the problem that I have is that this atmosphere would only last a short time – how long, I don’t know – unless there is some form of shielding or magnetic field. I believe that needs to be created first, if possible. Otherwise, we will be relegated to setting off a-bombs indefinitely. Other than that, I am not someone who believes a big lump of sand, dirt and rocks (Mars) needs to be preserved for eternity, as if it is a living breathing being. Nuke it, if that’s what it takes to make it liveable!
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